A Full Eclipse of the Moon!

Tonight many of the Seminarians watched the moon turn red as it was eclipsed by the earth. Supposedly, the rays from the sun on the outer parts of the globe are bent by the atmosphere towards the moon, lighting it with red wavelengths. I took a few pictures of the event, and I thought I'd share some observations on photographing the moon, especially in these special circumstances...

First, a picture of the setup I was using:

D40 with 70-300mm VR II lens  

It's a Nikon D40 with a 70-300mm VR lens attached, along with a hood to block out stray light from the area (I was taking pictures outside, with the seminary's bright exterior lights shining everywhere). It's all mounted on a Bogen tripod and ball head.

Here's the first shot I took of the moon:

Moon Being Eclipsed

This is a 100% crop; it was taken at 1/125, f/16.0, ISO 200. The reason I could use such a small aperture and fast shutter speed (coupled with a low ISO to prevent noise) was that the moon was reflecting direct sunlight, and so was quite bright to the camera. The shadow side was actually turning red (the earth is creating the line of shadow), but the camera's dynamic range isn't good enough to show the light and dark parts of the moon together.

Later, when the moon was fully eclipsed, I took this shot:

Red Moon - Eclipse

You'll notice it's a bit grainer and more blurred. That's because I had to increase the ISO to 400, and I took the picture at 1/3 of a second, with an f/5.6 aperture. When the moon was in the earth's shadow, much less light was being reflected off the moon's surface, so it was much harder to get a good shot. This is the sharpest I could get out of about 20 shots... Now I know why most people that take pictures of the moon use some sort of telescope to magnify and stabilize the image!

Finally, here's a picture at the height of the eclipse showing Saturn on the bottom left of the image and the star Regulus at the top (the moon, of course, is in the middle) — ISO 800, 1/10, f/5.6:

Moon Eclipsed Red with Jupiter and Regulus

One of the best thing about moon shots at night is the fact that you can easily Photoshop the moon into other photos, as long as they have black backgrounds. I took a quick picture of fellow seminarian and blogger Joseph, and simply pasted the moon into the background:

Joseph Photoshopped Moon Background Red Eclipse  

It was a good night, but I was glad to get back inside; the temperature was nearing 10°F, and it was quite windy. Maybe next time I'm out taking pictures of the moon I'll have some sort of telescope to assist in the magnification... for now, I'll settle for this!